“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It Goes On.”
Robert Frost

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

For the Love of Tomatoes

The best reason for a home garden is the delicious flavor of a summer tomato
picked fresh from your own vine.

There is a mysterious thing about a homegrown tomato that is different from the store-bought versions.  It is that special aroma and taste that occurs only when the fruit is picked and kept at the plant's ideal growing temperature.   The perfect temperature to keep a tomato living so that it sweetens and continues to ripen is 65°F to 85° F in an open oxygen-rich location.

Commercial tomato growers have tried to convince us that the red balls that appear in most grocery stores are "fresh" tomatoes. Often they are picked while still green and tasteless. Usually packed in plastic and cellophane and gassed with ethylene gas to redden their skins on their trip to the northern markets.

Now we have greenhouse-grown fruit that has been raised under grow lights so they will turn color and are left on the vine in clusters.  This again is an illusion to convince the buyer that this is a vine-fresh product.  Better, but still missing something.

Now that genetic engineering has improved the shelf  life of tomatoes, they can remain in a kind of suspended animation for several weeks or even up to a month without turning to mush.  However.....they're still missing something. That something is aroma, flavor and nutrients!

I  have to admit that some of the grape tomato varieties are sweet, but they still don't have that elusive taste of a homegrown tomato.  In the winter I buy them and dream of summer when I can have a truly delectable tomato right off my own tomato plant. 

This year with our hot weather, the tomatoes have done well.  I was very stringent about keeping them watered and they are looking wonderful.  As you see in the photos below, my tomatoes are planted in large pots. I decided that since sunlight is at a premium and the tomatoes could not compete with my five foot tall Bee Balm (monarda) that this would give them a better chance of survival. This places the plants about two feet higher than the surrounding flowers. So far, so good! We should have some ripe ones in just a few days.  I can't wait for a good old fashioned BLT sandwich!

A "Traveling Onion" (on left) tries to plant it's new bulbs in the tomato pot. A baseball size tomato showing color!

This year the varieties I am growing are Celebrity and Better Boy. Last year I grew an heirloom Brandywine and while they were really delicious, I ended up with less than a dozen tomatoes.  This years harvest is going to be much better! I usually use them up fresh, but occasionally I will freeze them whole.  I just throw them in a plastic zip bag and they go right into the freezer.  I use them within a few months to make  pasta sauce.

While I was reading up on tomatoes for this post, I found the cute quote below.

"Only two things
that money can't buy:  
That's true love 
homegrown tomatoes." 
                   Guy Clark

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Few Summer Flowers

I simply cannot let the month close without adding a few more photos of my summer garden. The day lilies are finishing their blooms and the phlox are just getting started. The queen of the prairie has now turned from pink to brown, but I still like the texture in the garden. I have also noticed that the goldfinch love to eat seeds from the cone-flower, cat-mint, blue giant hyssop plant and a few others, so I don't cut them until later in the fall.

Big Daddy Hosta

We have had terrible hot weather and it has taken a tole on some of my plants.  Thankfully we had a wonderful two inches of rain the other night.  Our temperatures are supposed to stay cooler through the weekend and then return to the 90's by next week.

Queen of the Prairie

Pink Prairie Mallow

Cherry Monarda

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. ~ Diane ~~~

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baking In The Summer Heat

Last week when it was 100000 degrees, I had some pathetic bananas sitting there on the counter. My husband said hopefully, "Those look ready for banana bread."  You know the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven and bake. The A/C was barely able to keep up the way it was. Off to the internet, I knew someone out there must have a slow cooker banana bread recipe. Sure enough I found the one below. There were several posted, but this had the most promising looking image.

I changed the recipe slightly and most of my ingredients are organic.  I don't use corn syrup so I used my Agave syrup instead.  The bread turned out almost as nice as the picture and was equally delicious. I'm sorry I never got around to taking a picture of it, but believe me it was good. My husband loved it. I am sure I will make it again. Now I am thinking of what else I can bake in there???

Slow Cooker Banana Bread

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tbsp Organic Raw Blue Agave syrup, or corn syrup
3 ripe bananas, well mashed
1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Grease and flour a 4 1/2 quart Slow Cooker or Crock-pot. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add in the baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add sugar, eggs, syrup, mashed bananas. Beat until smooth. Gradually add flour to creamed mixture just until slightly blended.  Stir in the nuts by hand. 

Pour into crock-pot, cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool, then invert bread onto serving platter or bread board.


Let me know if you have tried baking in your slow cooker.  Happy and Cool Baking!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fairy and Child

Last week after our steamy heat wave ended (just briefly, it's back), I took a little trip over to our local garden center to see what new items they had in. I happened to have my camera along this time and I am so glad I did. You never know what you might find.

Inside among the rows of geraniums and begonias. Next to the ferns and daisies I found.... another world, a small world, a Fairyland!

Do you see her? In front of the cute little thatched roof house?

An honest to God Fairy!

There she stands in her beautifully manicured garden.

A fairyland complete with a Fair sign and little pink and green striped tents..... you know, for the Fairy Fair.

Flower Fairy

And just the other day I sold a book that I hadn't looked at for awhile and when I was going back over some images of it I couldn't resist adding one to this post. This page is from the book Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Field and Illustrated by Clare McKinley.  The "Fairy and Child" poem is so sweet I have included it below. I love the cute little fairies on a morning glory vine and the darling bird perched above.

The poem goes....

Oh, listen, little Dear-My-Soul,
To the fairy voices calling,
For the moon is high in the misty sky
And the honey dew is falling;
To the midnight feast in the clover bloom
The bluebells are a-ringing,
And it's "Come away to the Land of Fay"
That the katydid is singing.

Next time you are out and about, keep yours eye open! You never know when you might find a fairy in the most unexpected place.

Happy Day! ~~Diane~~

Monday, July 16, 2012

Craving Cool...

I am craving cool today, cool weather that is. Actually, anything that makes me feel cool, whether it be something to drink, eat, wear, look at, experience, pour on or jump into. Yes, that is what I crave today. Cool, blue, cold, wet, breeze, sea, green shade.... aaahh! Feeling better already. So while our temperatures hover around 100 today and the locals debate global warming, here are some of my favorite images that might help cool you down.


photo by  Jean Allsopp         Source

"Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."
 —Louisa May Alcott
Photo: Nevis Beach, West Indies


Slice up some fruit and toss into a pitcher of ice water! Looks and tastes divine!

photo: Cool Water
by Phatpuppyart.deviantart.com


Raspberry Lemonade Spritzer Recipe

1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 pint fresh or frozen raspberries
1 (750-milliliter) bottle sparkling water

Combine lemonade and raspberries in an ice-filled pitcher. Stir in sparkling water.

Note:  Mix this refreshing drink just before serving to keep it bubbly.

The Cat Loves Ice Water

Hope you are feeling a bit more refreshed!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Little Guy is Growing Like a Weed...

Our little Guy Noir is growing so fast. At this age he is growing in length and he is quite a string bean! His tail is extremely long too. I read that this is normal for this stage in growth. We love his name Guy Noir, but we have also come up with a few nick-names too, such as Whirly Gig, Brat Cat, Devil Cat and several others.

Taken with a flash..... look at those long hairs sticking out!

Overall though he is very cute and loves to torment the adult girl cats. So far Aunt Dot and Granny Gin have held up alright under Guy's onslaught of terror! They are not afraid to correct his bad manners and he is starting to catch on that they do not like being jumped on and bit!

Dot in a moment of relaxation.

Wondering what is on the other side of the door.

Sorry for the blurry pictures! He won't stay still and I have an old camera!

He only remembers his sweet momma and brothers and sisters, who apparently had no problem going along with the rough housing. My girls will not be apart of that. They will play along most of the time, but when he gets too rough they let him have it! It only takes a hiss and a swift smack down with one paw to set him straight!

Guy inside his playpen.

The playpen is located on the screened porch where he can get fresh air and watch the birds and squirrels.

Here is his view, there is a goldfinch at the feeder in this photo.

The playpen has come in very handy. At first Guy was in there several times a day so the girls could get used to him. Now I mainly use it if I need to keep him safe and not underfoot when I am working in the kitchen cooking or when bringing in groceries from the garage. He thinks there is something fascinating out on the garage and tries to dash out there.  He is settling in quite well now and enjoys playing with his toys and chasing the girls.  He also loves to look out the windows on the porch and watch the birds.  We are all having a ball with this little bundle of energy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Ultimate Crafters

Joyce McCarthy, 92, left, and Annabelle Dale, 100, create birthday cards for fellow residents.

When I saw this story in our local newspaper, I knew it had to go into my blog. These ladies should have the title of  Ultimate Crafters! They have been doing this independently all their lives. Recently they teamed up and now work together to produce some wonderful and original birthday cards. Not only for friends and relatives, but for other residents in the senior apartment complex where they live.

Annabelle is a poet and Joyce is a water-colorist. Each month they collaborate to create birthday cards for the residents.  Joyce designs a cover birthday greeting on her computer, and then adds an original work of art that reflects the season.  Annabelle writes the interior greeting. The cards reflect the seasons and range from snow and pine trees to bright colored poppies. 

A tiny boat floats on water in another card. Here is the greeting inside -- “If wishes were fishes/And we had a net/We’d gather them all/And then you would get/So many you’d have/A bundle to share/We are sending you some/To show you that we care!” On the back, Joyce includes credit where credit is due: “Greeting by Annabelle Dale. Painted and printed by Joyce McCarthy.” “This is no two-bit operation,” Annabelle says.

I am so inspired by these two ladies. They have found a craft they love and have been enjoying it off and on throughout their lives. I take comfort that there is hope for an occasional crafter like me, that if I never give up, maybe someday I too will be an Ultimate Crafter!

For the article in the Star Tribune click here.  Photos via Star Tribune.